Women’s Empowerment Project: Mbale’s Gender Champions

Categories: NewsPublished On: 26th June, 20231224 words6.1 min read

Women’s Empowerment Project: Mbale’s Gender Champions

Categories: NewsPublished On: 26th June, 202355.6 min read

Integrating gender into agriculture-related climate change activities and policy

This blog post is part of a series on projects funded by a Women’s Empowerment Grant. Here, Size of Wales, which received a grant of £50,000, reflects on the success of its project.

Around the world and in Uganda, inequitable distribution of power, resources and responsibilities has resulted in women and girls being partially or fully excluded from political, economic and social-economic spheres in society.

Size of Wales co-designed a one year pilot project with partners METGE (Mount Elgon Tree Growing Enterprise), ITF (International Tree Foundation) and MADLACC (Masaka District Landcare Chapter Leadership), as well as the wider communities in which they are based.

The aim was to integrate gender into agriculture-related climate change activities and policy and to enable rural women to become important agents of change. Following the gender assessment, a clearer picture of the challenges and opportunities regarding women’s participation resulted in a pathway to support women. This included training, networking and access to resources such as seed funds, organic fertilisers, equipment and beehives to set up nature-friendly initiatives.

It is essential to recognise that the mission of gender equity is not and should not be the sole burden of women. As such, the project included men within training and awareness-raising to create a group of women and men gender champions.

Gender Champions Trained

Individuals were trained to carry out gender equity training. 44 men and women were trained to become gender champions to raise awareness in their community, challenging gender roles, sharing the benefits of tree planting and growing, fair treatment and respect of everyone regardless of their status.

For example, men have begun to realise that women can engage in activities such as tree growing and should have a say in how the land is managed.

The skills they learnt included communication, teamwork, and coordination with others enabling them to share information within their communities.

Here, Deborah and her son Gideon share what they have learned through Deborah becoming a gender champion.

Village Savings Loans Associations Supported

Women often struggle accessing funds and the hand-to-mouth nature of life in the project regions means it can be hard to pay for health care or medication and education– larger sums of money. Supporting women to gather and collectively set up savings groups empowers women and gives greater power to the money they earn.

Thanks to the project, 19 savings associations have received training on financial literacy and management, records keeping, and loans recovery.

Women Trained in Leadership Roles

Women are often neglected from leadership roles and decision-making positions meaning their needs are overlooked and their perspective is not considered. The project trained 40 women to improve their leadership skills and raise confidence to take on decision-making roles in the community.

They also went on to train 664 other women in their community. Focus group discussions revealed that women’s perceptions to leadership is changing. At the beginning, some of the women doubted themselves, but now thanks to the training, they said they feel encouraged and comfortable in their roles.

They now see that they can take up leadership positions, make decisions and speak out in public gatherings. Some of them are preparing to stand for leadership positions in the next elections and when opportunities arise in their community.

Income Generating Activities for Women

Over 600 women were supported to set up climate resilient livelihood opportunities to generate an income and improve food security:

  • 1,800 cashew nuts seedlings were distributed. All the cashew nuts were planted and are growing well. Cashew nuts are a viable source of livelihood because they are a high value crop.
  • Three tree nurseries have been set up to produce tree seedlings.
  • Beekeeping start-up kits were provided including 75 beehives, smokers, and protective equipment.
  • 11 kitchen gardens have been established and farm tools shared. As a result, 113 farmers have started replicating this in their own individual homes or households.
  • 10 bags of vetiver grass being were distributed to the gender groups for fodder and mulching.
  • Three water harvesting tanks have also been supplied addressing the lack of water available during the dry seasons. It enables vegetables and seedlings to receive a supply of water year-round.

“We women have been able to participate in beekeeping because we know the benefits from this activity. We have been able to generate honey and other beekeeping products which we sell to earn some money” Ms Victoria Namalikye from Masele Beekeepers group in Sironko District – one of groups that has benefited from METGE’s beekeeping trainings explains.

Promoting sharing and learning

The project has also fostered learning and sharing between project staff and community members from both Mbale and Masaka district through peer-to-peer exchange visits. For example, they learnt how women nursery bed operators use technology to track the number of trees planted.

“Record keeping and data capturing is a good aspect in the project. We saw a woman using a tablet to enter data for farmers who have taken trees and it’s inspiring to empower women to get familiar to use technology,” said Ms Nankya, a farmer from Masaka.

The visits also generated discussions about the role of women in the community and how to better support people living with disability.

“Women can do beekeeping and we have seen this and so we have to do the same. We have to interest ourselves in doing beekeeping as a business when we go back to Masaka”, explained Christine Nankya, a community member from Masaka.

Lessons learned

  • Climate change affects men and women differently as they have different roles, responsibilities, and experiences in society. Women are often responsible for collecting water and fuel wood, which can become more difficult and dangerous due to increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. They also tend to have less access to resources and decision-making power, making them more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as decreased access to food, water, and shelter. For example, in Mbale, where the project was implemented, women are the primary caretakers for their families, and when crops fail due to drought, they are responsible for finding alternative sources of food and water.
  • Flexibility in budget management is important to accommodate the rising prices of items, fuel and inflation so as to ensure timely and proper implementation of planned activities.
  • Including men in gender and climate justice is important. Enabling women and men to openly discuss their challenges and seek solutions in a collective way helps to addresses the men’s fears.
  • It is also important to involve local leaders in training sessions in order to enhance participation, understanding and appreciation of the project objectives.
  • Listening to the community’s issues and priorities helps in ranking the most pressing and urgent needs. Equally, listening to local leaders helps in validating and verifying an evidence-based approach to addressing the community’s issues.
  • Discussing financial empowerment and benefit sharing with both men and women in a household is impactful in addressing gender inequalities. Such households are now becoming centres of learning and change agents in the community.
  • The exchange visit to Mbale was a real eye-opener. The communities were able to undertake joint peer reviews and evaluation of project interventions on environmental protection, climate action and gender empowerment. The community radio programme was hailed as a transformative tool for dissemination of nature-based solutions.